UC Davis graduate student Benjamin Hanken was one of the 25 students chosen from across the nation to participate in the first annual student program at the Idaho National Laboratory this summer. Hanken, an alumni of Oregon State University, started his graduate studies in chemical engineering and materials science at UCD this year. Hanken was offered a scholarship from the Idaho National Laboratory to attend Advanced Test Reactor National Scientific User facility summer session from July 16 to 20.
“I first heard about the summer session through Professor Niels Jensen, one of the principal investigators for the project I’ll be working on for my thesis,” Hanken said in an e-mail interview.
Hanken said Jensen encouraged everyone in the department to apply for the ATR summer session.
Twenty-five applicants were accepted out of approximately 70 applications. The applicants from across the country were judged competitively based on their interests, references and background in the field.
The Advanced Test Reactor is a nuclear reactor where researchers can place different materials or fuels to see how they behave in an irradiated environment, where materials are exposed to radiation.
Jeff Benson, who works for educational programs with Idaho National Laboratory, said that when a material such as steel is placed in the test reactor for a period of three years, it will behave as if it has been in an irradiated environment for several decades. This kind of research helps find the best materials and fuels for building new nuclear reactors.
“The ATR is one of the foremost research material testing research reactors in the world,” Benson said.
In the past, the reactor was used by contractors or government research. This summer will be the first time students and academics will be able to tour the facility and participate in discussions about the ATR program.
According to the Idaho National Laboratory website, “Within 10 years, INL will be the preeminent nuclear energy laboratory with synergistic, world-class, multi-program capabilities and partnerships.”
Benson said students attending the summer session will learn about and discuss topics like irradiation damage, reactor fuels and post-irradiation examination.
Hanken visited several schools last year when deciding where to do his graduate studies. Hanken said he got involved with materials science by accident when he chose UCD.
“I did my undergrad in [chemical engineering] at Oregon State, and fully intended to continue that for my graduate work. However, it happened that UC Davis won my interest – and here at Davis, the [chemical engineering and materials science] departments are merged,” Hanken said.
Hanken said he did not know much about Idaho National Laboratory when he applied. He said he doesn’t think the Idaho National Laboratory is where he’d like to work in the future, but he hopes the visit will help him make that decision.
“I’m from Oregon, and know that I’d prefer to end up back around the Northwest, but that’s about the most I can say,” Hanken said.
MADELINE McCURRY SCHMIDT can be reached at email@example.comXXX